Let us start with the good news. For a year we have enjoyed excellent farming conditions in which to farm in this part of the world, especially regarding grass.

North Lanarkshire has looked well all year and as I pen this on May 11, every acre that is well farmed and fed, is looking perfect – so let's hope we have the same good fortune for the next 12 months!

What is the reason for such perfect conditions for farming in this grass growing area, which is Scotland’s largest crop? One thing – rain at the right time and not in excessive amounts, followed by sunshine. The downside, unfortunately, is that it has not been the most profitable year in which to farm, for a whole raft of reasons.

The foremost is the continual drive by large supermarkets’ to reduce what they pay for whatever product they think their customers require. The fewer and larger these supermarkets become, the tougher it will be for all suppliers.

It was certainly good news that the competition authorities put a stop to the Asda/Sainsbury merger. How do we stop this supermarket race to the bottom?

I was asked recently what correspondence I receive after writing these articles. Mostly, it comes by telephone on a Friday morning around chore time before breakfast! Other times I do not hear a cheep, especially if I have reported something controversial.

Last month was vocal in several ways, regarding the beef price, but the criticism fired at me was because I had not been hard enough on the big four beef processors who handle the bulk of Scotch beef.

I would be in jail for slander if I had printed half of the angry remarks telling me what beef farmers thought of these processors, though most of the ear-bashing was largely true! For the most part, the banter is good natured and it opens the door to conversation and lots of thoughts. I have certainly gained many friends over the years and maybe some enemies too!

I attended the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers Conference (SAMW) in Glasgow, recently, which has been widely reported, though I am going to put a slightly different slant on it. Firstly, I have to congratulate its new president, Andy McGowan, on an excellent speech, in fact, the best of the day, especially with the many statistics he threw out.

The one which drew my attention was that the number of suckler cows in Scotland has dropped 25% in the last 10 years.

That really led the tone for the day. What is going to be done to stop this continual decline? Fergus Ewing, the keynote speaker, had this coming at him from all directions. Apparently, he had similar concerns voiced at him a few days later, at Lanark. Here is a suggestion – follow President Macron, of France, who has a bill currently going through the French Parliament, bringing into law for farmers, that their produce cannot leave their farms below the cost of production. Put that into law in Holyrood, Fergus and you will be the farmers’ friend for life!

To acquire the cost of production for the many types of food that leave Scotland’s farms would not be difficult, particularly with the technology we have today.

Maybe we need to ask the fundamental question first. Why is the number of suckler cows falling? The simple answer is that no matter what business one is in, one has to make a profit margin – that is basic business.

The beef sector has just come through one of its worst periods since March, 1996, when BSE devastated our sector. Then, the government of the day, for a number of weeks, paid out £50 per head, which was the saviour for the beef sector. This time there is no such hope of any help.

There is one thing for sure, suckler cow numbers will continue to fall unless beef finishers return to profit. The Scottish abattoir sector is currently in the throes of investing in excess of £60m to either update facilities or build new. With the current level of profitability, there is no chance of there being more cattle to go through these plants.

In fact, it is more likely there will be fewer. Beef farmers cannot continue with the current volatility and survive with negative returns. SAMW – the answer is in your hands!

There are other ways of utilising Scotland's land. Only the other day I spoke with a German farmer who was telling me that many of his neighbours had stopped both dairy and beef farming, and changed to supplying 'feedstock' for AD plants, replacing food production with power production. Then the digestate goes back onto the land for the next crop.

His argument was that we were producing too much food so they switched to producing energy. The other alternative is trees. Not quite as attractive as AD, but this would please Holyrood.

The latest generation of solar panels are much more efficient, so let's cover more acres and take them out of food production. In the West, our weather could be useful for hydro power or turbines, so beef cow numbers could soon be in a much steeper decline.

The reverse in dairy cows seems to be the in thing. I am getting information on a regular basis about the number of new herds being established, especially in the South-west and not just 100/200 cow units, but 500 dairy cow units with at least a handful due to come on stream in the near future.

Where the milk is going, I have not heard. Maybe we are about to follow Ireland. Since quotas ended, milk production there has increased close to 30%.

God forbid, if that happens in GB. Having said that, there has been a milk processors and producers meeting recently where the news was less than comfortable, with too much milk being supplied and a need for the dairy farmers to produce less. Apparently there were various suggestions for a solution. One was to put a day's milk into the slurry tower. Hopefully they will find less draconian measures than that!

It looks to me as if the milk sector is heading back to the situation we found ourselves in at the end of the 1970s and early '80s before quotas, or as I prefer to call it supply management (SM).

Back then, in order to try and cover costs, we increased milk production. By changing to three times a day milking we gained a 15% increase in production almost overnight. By that time, we were also becoming more pure Holstein from our 1970s' imports, so it appears that, with the termination of SM and a milk price the same as it was 25 years ago, the drive is to produce more milk.

That is happening because of several factors, primarily cow genetics, robots and bigger herds housed all year, which means they produce more milk because they are not weather affected. This milk increase is not happening in England and Wales to the same extent, because of badgers spreading TB, which means that there are thousands of cows being killed, thus preventing the milk production rise that we are experiencing in Scotland and Ireland.

It is a good job that Ireland has installed extra processing capacity to handle this flood of milk which, I am told, is crossing the Irish sea from Cairn Ryan. Could it be that the processors will have to install a form of SM because they cannot find a home for the milk, or is it back to price slashing because of over supply?

Back to some good news. I was at Ayr Show last Saturday and it seemed everyone I spoke to was enjoying the fine sunny day away from work, and taking time off to have a good chat with their fellow farmers, of whatever sector.

Cattle shows used to be dominated by showing stock and it was good to see such a good turn-out of youngsters with calves and in showmanship classes. However, they are becoming more of a community event – maybe that is just the age I am at!